Copyright 2013. AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS EDWARD D. BALLARD SECURITY POST 38. All rights reserved.
COLD WEATHER MOTORCYCLE RIDING: WIND IS YOUR ENEMY
As cold weather starts to roll in this season and the last red leaves fall off the trees, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to do with your motorcycle this winter. For some, winter means buying fuel stabilizer, dusting off the trickle charger, and gently snuggling their motorcycle into a warm corner of the garage. For the rest of us, winter means no change to our motorcycle riding habits except the addition of quite a bit of extra clothing!
I clearly fall into the "extra clothing" category - I'll ride anything above 20 degrees (if I had heated clothing, I'm sure I could go lower). Call me crazy or just "thermally gifted," but riding motorcycles in the winter can be really enjoyable.
(By the way, I am by no means thermally gifted. I've seen rocks with better circulation than myself.)
Now, I'm not the type that loves to ride so much that I'll get out there and freeze my rump off just to get miles under my belt. To make winter riding enjoyable, I like to be comfortable, and comfortable in the winter means warm and dry.
Riding a motorcycle in cold weather comes down to one simple concept: insulation.
Since most people aren't very active on a motorcycle, their body isn't doing much to produce heat on its own to counteract the cold. That means we have to do everything we can to insulate the body in order to keep what precious heat that we do produce actually on our body, and not floating off in the cold winter air.
Insulation boils down to two things: layers (to slow the rate at which our body loses heat), and wind proofing (to keep the wind from stealing our heat).
Let's talk about layers first. Layers are critcal for riding a motorcycle in the cold weather of winter. The number of layers you'll need to wear is based both on personal preference (some people naturally run a little hotter than others) and the temperature outside. I've worn up to four layers in really cold weather. The key is to have enough layers on that you feel comfortable (maybe even slightly warm) when you step outside and just stand in place(before you ride your motorcycle).
Remember two things
Your bottom layer should always be some type of snug fitting thermal or fleece underwear. This will create a warm layer of air between your body and this material. (Don't worry about buying the expensive wicking materials like Dri-Fit, etc. - you won't be sweating much so it won't do you much good)
Don't wear so many layers that you lose mobility. If you can't hold your arms at your side because of all your clothing, than it's probably time to invest in either some warmer, or even heated, clothing.
Now, let's talk about wind proofing. The biggest issue that you will have when riding a motorcycle in the winter is keeping the wind out. Wind, specifically wind chill, is your worst enemy on a motorcycle in cold weather. Doing everything you can to stop this enemy is going to go a long way to helping you ride your motorcycle comfortably in the cold.
Wind-proofing also takes the most trial and error to perfect. It can take quite a while before you finally plug all of those air leaks!
The main thing to do for wind-proofing is to make sure your outer layer is some type of wind-proof material. Leather is by far the most popular choice for this. Ideally, you should look for something that is both wind-proof and water-proof. There are many man-made materials that meet that criteria.
(I personally prefer leather and if I do run into weather, I just throw my rainsuit on for protection and a little added warmth!)
Here are a few additional thoughts on wind-proofing:
Add a windshield to your motorcycle to block the wind.
While not stylish, duck tape can do wonders to seal any leaks you might have.
Wear a full face motorcycle helmet with some type of covering for your neck and head - I prefer a balaclava. Most of your heat is lost through your head so do your best to keep it warm!
Put newspaper on your chest between your outer layer and the layer underneath it - this does wonders for blocking the wind (a tip I learned while racing bikes)
Hands and Feet
I've found that I can insulate my body and legs adequately, but when the temperature really drops, I have the most problems with my hands and feet. Many people have a similar problem. The reason is that as you get cold your body focuses circulation on your internal organs to keep them warm, while your feet and hands get the shaft.
The only way that I've found to keep my hands and feet comfortable in really cold weather is to 1) add additional heat sources, and 2) invest in quality boots and gloves
For additional heat sources I use those air-activated hand and feet warmers that you can find in the hunting section of any Wal-Mart. Crack open a couple of these, stuff them into your boots and gloves, and your hands and feet will be toasty for 5+ hours. Not sure what I'm talking about? Check them out here:http://www.warmhandsnow.com/store/warmers.shtml
For boots, I'm a strong believer that you don't have to go and buy a pair of $250+ Harley motorcycle boots to get the performance you need in cold weather. The best pair of boots that I've ever had (and still wear) cost me $40 from a Wal-Mart somewhere in Missouri (Herman Survivors: Commander model). They are comfortable, waterproof, and windproof and have seen me through a lot of crappy weather. I was so happy with them I took a picture of them in action, not the best pic but you get the idea.
The key things you want to look for in boots are:
Fit (you don't want them to be tight because this will reduce circulation and make your feet colder)
Water-Proof. Don't even consider them if they aren't.
Above the ankle. This really helps with wind proofing.
Comfortable to walk around in. I've had motorcycle boots that made me walk like a robot from Starwars. This is not what you want!
Insulation is a nice to have, but not a must; you can get most of your insulation from putting extra socks on.
I've tried quite a few gloves and have found very few that really do the trick. Gloves can really be a trial and error process for motorcycle riding so make sure that you've found the right pair before embarking on your next long cold weather ride.
In looking for gloves:
Make sure that they are long enough that they completely cover the wrist (remember: wind-proof, wind-proof, wind-proof!)
Find a pair with a hook and loop closure system at the wrist that allows you to tighten the gloves.
Good fit - if the glove feels tight at all, get the next size up. We don't want anything to impede circulation!
Good insulation - you want the high-efficiency stuff like 3M Thinsulate, not just a bunch of fluff.
Good insulation placement - most gloves only put insulation on the top. You want a pair with a little bit in the palm and other parts of the hand as well.
Pre-curved fingers - motorcycle gloves can wear you out if you're trying to squeeze that throttle all day. Pre-curved fingers alleviate this. If at all possible, try to squeeze a throttle before purchasing. Make sure the gloves don't get tight or bunch up - you'll really notice it after 30 minutes of riding.
Finally, after you've got all your gear sorted out there are a couple of things you'll want to be aware of in terms of safety before getting out there in the cold: Frostbite and Hypothermia.
Exposed skin is always at risk for frostbite, so make sure you don't have any exposed skin! If you feel like your skin is being pricked by needles, frostbite is on its way and you need to do something immediately. If your skin starts to turn white or waxy and feels numb and hard you need to get immediate medical attention.
Hypothermia is a separate concern. Hypothermia is where your core body temperature drops below the minimum temperature required for your body to operate. Hypothermia causes mild confusion, sluggish behavior, poor muscle coordination, and incoherent behavior
If you start feeling cold and can't decide if you should pull over, you are facing an early stage of hypothermia. Pull over immediately and get a hot coffee!
If you start shivering uncontrollably, feel sluggish, or even drunk, then you're in serious trouble. Hypothermia is already underway and you need to stop immediately to warm up.
Thats All Folks
Lastly, if you are going to be riding for long periods of time in cold weather or ride in REALLY cold weather, then you need to invest in heated clothing. In these situations, the body needs an alternative source of heat to keep itself warm - and heated clothing is the only way to go. Maybe we'll discuss heated clothing in a later article.
Riding in the cold weather is a relatively easy task. It's all just a matter of insulation. With a little trial and error you'll be out there on your motorcycle getting those looks of "he/she must be crazy" too!
The following Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding information can be found at... http://www.openroadjourney.com/articles/how-to-ride-motorcycles-in-cold-weather/103/2
How To Reduce The Risk Of Being Injured While Riding A Motorcycle
By Andrew Kass - Information can be found at:
This a good overview of steps to take to avoid being injured in a collision. If you or someone you know have been involved in a collision, there are a few very important things for you to do to preserve your rights.
First, make sure a police report is made and the name and phone/addresses of witnesses is taken down. Second, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible. Right after a collision it is difficult to determine how serious your injuries are due to adrenalin flowing and the state of shock you may be in. Do not make any statements (other than to the police officer). Finally, call our office to speak to a qualified motorcycle accident lawyer for advice.
Ride. Be Safe. Have Fun.
Kass & Moses, PC
Maybe the most overlooked safety tip of them all is staying focused. We’re all guilty of wandering off, especially if we’re cruising along the interstate without another soul in sight, but maintaining focus is key in the event an emergency arises. That doesn’t mean riding wide-eyed and with a death grip on the bars, but stay alert, be aware of what’s around you, listen to your motorcycle, and most of all, have fun.
Congratulations. You’ve managed to hang on to the same helmet for five years without it ever touching the ground (at least with your head inside). This is an admirable feat, no doubt, but no matter how well you take care of your lid, if it’s five years old or older you should consider replacing it. That’s not just us talking, either – this is coming from the folks at the Snell Memorial Foundation. Over time the glues, polymers, resins and other materials that make up the inside of your helmet will start to degrade. Sweat and oils our bodies produce also take their toll on helmet material over time, too. Why take that chance? Retire the old lid and get yourself a new one.
From our Road Captain
Post 38 Security, Colorado